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MFS – World Maps



World Maps


  • Introduce the concept of Jewish migration throughout generations, and explore why this migration happened when and where it did.
  • Students will connect with the larger story of Jewish migration, as well as the immigration story of their home country. 
  • Students will find and share their place on the map. 
  • Students will have the opportunity to connect with Jewish leaders from the past, by reading and analyzing a text about Moses. This is a great place to connect the lesson with the Torah Portion of Shemot.

Make sure parents receive the parent letter (link here to parent letter) explaining their participation in this assignment.  Hand out the small world map to each student (link to map). Instruct students to work with parents or grandparents in order to map out where the different sides of their families came from before they ended up in their current location. Each side of the family should be done with a different color pen or marker to differentiate the paths. Make it clear when the maps are due, and that when complete, these maps should be put in their binders as they will become part of their Roots Portfolio. Other than the initial explanation of the map home assignment, the real class time lesson on the maps is done after students complete the maps at home and bring in to class.

Map (link):

Lesson for when students bring their maps in:

Let everyone take out their maps. Give each student two stickers and tell them to write their name on them. Each student should then take turns placing their stickers on the class map on two locations (where parents or grandparents came from-their choice). After every student has taken their turn, continue with the activity:

  • Does the map show a lot of variety in terms of where your class’s families came from?
  • Ask why many of the stickers may be grouped around specific locations: Poland, Russia, Morocco, New York, etc. 


Some places developed into centers of Jewish life more than others. Why? These were places that may have been friendly to Jewish settlement. Once Jews began to settle there, other Jews felt more comfortable settling there as well. Compare the class map with the two maps below. One shows settlement of Jews in the 1800s and the other shows the current settlement of Jews. Point out how the class map mirrors [or does not mirror] either of the maps. Also, take note how today the Jewish population has shifted away from Eastern Europe, and Arab and Muslim states. Why is that the case?

  • The Shoah / Holocaust
  • The creation of the State of Israel.
  • The relative comfort and freedom found in certain countries.
  • Other reasons?

Maps of Jewish communities from 1880 and 2010   (pgs 52-3)

This lesson can be tied in with a national history lesson. Encourage students to find their place on the timeline of their home country, and think about what their ancestors’ lives might have been like when they arrived in this country. 


Text #1: The Birth of Moses

Where did it all begin? Where did the notion of the Jewish people begin-what is our shared story? According to the Torah and our accepted tradition, we became a people at the Exodus from Egypt.

Hand out Text #1. Read the passage in pairs and answer the questions together. Please note that the English translation provided is not exact. It is intended to be a loose translation in order to be easily understandable by students. (text below should be in link to new page)


Text #1: The Birth of Moses (link to 5-World Maps Text PDF)


1. What title would you give to this passage?

2. Make a list of the details it gives regarding Moses’ life.

3.     This passage is a strange one for the Torah. The Torah does not usually offer so many details about a person’s life and background. Why do you think the Torah made an exception with Moses’ story? Why does it offer so many details?

Discuss answers together. Explain that the Israelites are about to become a people-an exceptional event. Since this is such a formative and foundational event, it makes sense that the stories leading up to this event become very important. As the person who led this people out of Egypt, Moses and his life-story also become important.

Moses’ parents, his adopted mother (the daughter of Pharaoh), and Pharaoh himself, as well as his siblings (Aaron and Miriam), all contributed to who Moses became and his ability to lead this enslaved group and make them into a people.

Explain to students that their parents, grandparents, and relatives all have something to do with how they arrived to this place, and contribute to who they are and who they will become. Therefor, those original stories become important to figuring out who they themselves are.


Optional additional activity #1: 

Using the Online Family Story Collection , explore family stories from around the world. After students complete their own family world maps, ask them to click on one of the countries their family came from on the Online Collection, and read the other stories coming from the same place. Ask: are these stories similar to yours? Do you recognize any of the same traditions? How do their stories differ from yours? Did anything surprise you?

Optional additional activity #2: 

Explore these additional ANU databases . Ask students: did your families come from any of these countries? Did they leave these countries during the same years? Do you recognize any of the same traditions? How do their stories differ from yours? Did anything surprise you?